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Wednesday, 11 November 1964

Senator COOKE (Western Australia) . - The Opposition notes that the purpose of this Bill is to enable the Commonwealth Government to enter into an arrangement with a State or State meat authorities to enable Commonwealth meat inspectors to undertake the inspection of meat for consumption in Australia. It would appear that this Bill has been introduced to satisfy the desire of South Australia to have its meat inspectors under the control of the Commonwealth Government: Many factors point to this being a most satisfactory arrangement. Up to the present time co-operation has been good. Commonwealth meat inspectors and State meat inspectors have co-operated, and from that point of view a good job has been done with a degree of overlapping.

Although it may not be effected by this Bill, as an individual I should like, after the qualities of meat have been determined by a meat inspection, for knowledge of. those qualities to be passed on to the person who may consume the meat. In the presentation of the meat for sale the quality of the meat as determined by the inspector - whether he be Federal or State - might be marked and offered for sale to the consumer with the quality and standard thereon. This is a matter to which the Government could pay attention at some future date.

Is the Minister in a position to indicate to the Senate the attitude of the other States to this legislation? Is there any objection to it, any difficulties, or any obstacles to be overcome in establishing a uniform method of meat inspection under the Commonwealth Government? Is there any reason why Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland could not enter into such an arrangement with the Commonwealth Government,, particularly as the Minister has . referred to the need to satisfy the requirements of the American market? The Minister said that one of the import conditions applied by the American authorities was, to quote his words, that " the control of meat inspection must be under a service organised and administered by the National Government ". If this is the position, why does not this meat inspection service to be provided by the Commonwealth apply to the other States? My colleague, Senator Drury, has had discussions about this matter with the parties affected in South Australia and he will place before the Senate the South Australian view of this legislation. I am sure he will do this capably. However, a few other factors might be taken into consideration, and I think the Senate has a reasonable right to request that the Minister provide information to honorable senators.

I understand that there are about 690 Commonwealth meat inspectors and that into their ranks will be taken the permanent and temporary meat inspectors of South Australia. If this scheme is agreed to by the other States it will ultimately lead to the absorption of all State meat inspectors. In Western Australia health inspection comes into the matter of meat inspection, and veterinary officers are also involved. Quite a few of those concerned are permanent officers, but there are several temporary officers concerned with meat inspections, particularly those employed by local government authorities and others.

Although the Bill may have been discussed in the South Australian Parliament, apparently it is not satisfactory to the majority of the States because, at this stage, most States have not elected to come within its provisions. If it is necessary to remove an impediment to the legislation, I think the Senate should know about it so that there may be set up an effective system of meat inspection to conform to the requirements of overseas trade, and to maintain a uniform standard of inspection of meat for home consumption. As the Commonwealth has gone so far as to draft this legislation, it should endeavour to arrange for a complete Commonwealth inspection, or should allow the States to agree upon a coordinated standard between themselves.

Quite a few conditions in relation to officers affected by the legislation are contained in the Bill' before us. It provides for the appointment as Commonwealth employees of persons who at present are operating as State inspectors, permanent or temporary, in South Australia. It seems that the Commonwealth Government has given a fair amount of consideration to this aspect. I would like the Minister to inform the Senate whether South Australian temporary employees who enter the Commonwealth service will carry their seniority with them. I should also like to know whether they will be provided with housing, if they are required to shift their place of residence to take up employment with the Commonwealth. Perhaps the Minister could also inform the Senate whether they will be engaged on a permanent basis in the Commonwealth service and thus be entitled to the superannuation benefits that apply to Commonwealth public servants. If these mcn are not to be employed as permanent public servants, will the Minister inform the Senate whether they are to bc offered a contract of service which will ensure for them continuity of employment? Details of the basis upon which seniority is to be fixed would also be appreciated.

I refer now to clause 9 (2.), which states -

Where the eligibility ot a person for the grant of leave of absence for recreation is for a number of days in excess of thirty, such number of those days as exceeds thirty shall be disregarded for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section.

I would like to know whether the State Government has agreed to allow the men who wish to transfer to the Commonwealth to clear any leave that may have been accumulated, or to pay the men in lieu of allowing them to take such leave. I should also like to know what is to happen in respect of superannuation. Are the men to enjoy superannuation coverage equal to that which applied to them in State employment? If not, is compensation by way of a lump sum to be offered to the men and are they to make a fresh start by contributing to the Commonwealth scheme? Alternatively, is the Commonwealth prepared to accept the responsibility of offering superannuation and compensation rights equal to those enjoyed by the men in State employment? I understand that the men are covered by an insurance scheme to which employees and employers contribute. I would like to know the extent to which the Government thinks it will be able to operate its scheme, having in mind that some States have indicated that they will have nothing to do with it. In these circumstances docs the Government envisage that it will obtain uniformity in relation to this matter of Commonwealth inspection of meat?

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